WINDOW SHOPPING THROUGH THE PAST
The Prine Shrine Archived pages
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Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor,
14 Sept 02
By: Dave Piner
Time has diminished some of the negative aspects of the concert and what remains now is a memory of a fantastic singer/songwriter performing some of the greatest songs put on vinyl to a mostly adoring crowd. I hope I get to see John Prine again and hopefully I can get seats closer to the front where I can block out some of the activity towards the back of the place.
By: Martin Anderson, London, Ontario, Canada
It has been a few weeks now, since I went to see John Prine with my parents in Ann Arbor. I have waited 20 years to see John Prine and I especially wanted to see it with my father, who bought the first Prine album back in the early 70's. Since I first heard John Prine I realized that this guy was a gift to us all and he should be recorded the same respect as any person who truly has something to say.
I have to agree with "Kirk MacKellar, Dimondale" when he spoke about the audience. When we arrived the Michigan Theatre was selling beer in the lobby, but only if you were a member. Many people must have become short term members that night as the bar was doing a brisk business. When Greg Trooper started the Theatre was, at best, half full. He played to a crowd that was predominantly uninterested in his performance and more interested in finding their seat, chatting with their friends, going to the washroom, etc. When Greg finished the lights came up and there was a stampede to the bar again.
The same crowd who went to Kirk's concert in Kalamazoo must have come to Ann Arbor, since the behaviour was much the same. People were yelling stuff out at inappropriate places, getting up and down to go to the washroom, and generally being very disruptive. I came to hear John Prine sing, and I didn't need any beer or wine to make his concert any better.
State Theater, Kalamazoo, Michigan
September 13, 2002
By: Webmistress of Prine
Reviews and Stories updated irregularly here
Many stories/reviews and lots of photos.. and make plans to join us for a #4 Gathering of the Prine
By: mike winters
i was also at that show in the first row i must have missed all the yelling and rudeness personally i thought the crowd was very courteous.i have no idea how old you are but i am sure you were once in your forties.come to chicago sometime if you want to see a wild crowd. and make sure you tell whoever is bothering you to behave!!!!!
By: Kirk MacKellar, Dimondale
Rude behavior ruined concert
I recently attended the John Prine concert at the State Theatre and left the show with one question: Are they no longer teaching public civility in the Kalamazoo schools?
Being an avid concert goer, I gladly traveled the 70 miles to see one of my favorite artists in one of my favorite venues.
I was very disappointed. Not by the act or the theater but by the conduct of my fellow patrons. Never before have I witnessed a ruder group of people. They arrived late, (during the opening act which they almost completely ignored) talked freely, shouted across the theater to their inebriated pals, and showed more concern for getting their next drink than disturbing those of us trying to enjoy a passionate performance by Greg Trooper.
They saved their worst behavior for the main act. The mob mentality clamored to a crescendo when John Prine started his first number. They shouted questions, demands, requests and complaints. They yee-haa'd, whistled, and flashed cameras during the songs thus successfully destroying many of the intimate moments Mr. Prine was trying to build.
One rather large "gentleman" approached the stage, leaned against it and watched the remainder of the show perched right there. Where were the ushers?
Youthful exuberance? Not by a long-shot. These were people, (lots of people) in their 30s and 40s seated throughout the entire theater exhibiting behavior best suited for a bachelor party.
The intimate concert by an acoustic singer-songwriter was a free-for-all and the mob won this time.
Next time, however I'll spend my money here in the Lansing area. We know how to behave.
Prine perseveres, and more
By: BY KEVIN RANSOM
Singer-songwriter travels from cult figure to commercial success, and then beats back cancer
Friday, September 13, 2002
In the last 10 years, life has taken many unexpected turns for John Prine - more than anyone would expect outside of ... well, anywhere outside of a John Prine song.
But it was the most recent development that was the most startling, and potentially most the life-altering - his 1998 cancer diagnosis.
His battle with cancer began after nearly a decade's worth of life- and career-altering events. The first was his 1991 release, "The Missing Years," which sold more than 350,000 copies, won a Grammy and made Prine a commercially successful artist for the first time in his career. This was after he'd spent the previous 20 years, despite his songwriting brilliance and consistent critical raves, as a cult favorite whose gifts mostly went undiscovered by the mass audience.
Then, Prine - who performs at the Michigan Theater on Saturday - got married to an Irish woman and started a family in middle age, maintaining homes in Nashville and Ireland. Next, in 1995, he released "Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings," the most commercial-sounding disc of his career and another big seller that enabled him to go on tour with a full band for the first time since the late '70s.
After that came another surprise: In 1998, Prine - one of the most gifted and incisive songwriters of the last 30 years - decided to record an album that featured only one of his own songs amidst a bevy of classic-country covers (mostly of songs from the '50s and '60s). Not only that, but it was a duets album, titled "In Spite of Ourselves,' that paired Prine with his favorite female singers - current critical darlings like Iris DeMent, Lucinda Williams and Emmylou Harris, as well as vintage-country songbirds like Melba Montgomery and Connie Smith.
"This was a pet project of mine," Prine told Rolling Stone. "These were some of my favorite songs, and I figured I'd just see if my favorite girl singers would come into the studio and sing with me. "I kind of halfway expected a lot of people to go, 'What's this? Where's the newest 12 songs?' But in order to keep my juices flowing, I've got to do something like this every once in a while."
But he was smack in the middle of the sessions for the duets album when he was diagnosed with cancer of the neck - which threatened not only his livelihood, but possibly his life. He put the duets album on hold and underwent intensive radiation treatments that could have left him unable to sing - which is what happened when The Band's Levon Helm underwent radiation for throat cancer.
But Prine beat the cancer and emerged from the treatments with his singing voice mostly unchanged. Eighteen months later, he completed "In Spite of Ourselves," and the highly engaging disc went on to earn a Grammy nomination.
But the cancer definitely put a scare in him.
"Since the cancer was in my neck, there was a chance it could spread to the throat," Prine told Rolling Stone. Prine said the doctors suggested blocking his vocal cords to protect them from radiation. "I said, 'You guys ever hear me sing? If I can talk, I can sing. I'll worry about singing, you guys worry about getting rid of all the cancer."'
"It did drop my voice a little bit. They also took my saliva glands out, so your mouth dries up in an instant. So (during live shows) I just take a big drink of water before each song and hope it lasts until the end."
Prine told Performing Songwriter magazine that, after battling cancer, he is looking at life much differently. "I don't see how you couldn't. I was already appreciating everything before all this happened, but it magnified all that for me. Like with the duets record - before, it was in the category of 'an album I'd like to make one day.' I would never get further than that with it."
Prine has taken a lower-key approach to his career in the four years since his illness, doing only special-occasion live performances. In 2000, he released "Souvenirs" - a collection of newly recorded versions of his best-loved songs - including "Sam Stone," "Grandpa Was a Carpenter," "Donald and Lydia," "Far From Me," and "Hello in There." On the "Souvenirs" recording, one can hear the subtle effects of the radiation treatment on his voice - which, by the mid-to-late-'80s, had already morphed from the nasal Dylanesque quality of his early years into a comfortably smoky burr. On "Souvenirs," that eloquent rasp had lost some of its power, but was compelling nonetheless - maybe even more so since we know the reason why.
Local folk musician and radio host Matt Watroba says that Prine gave a generation of songwriters the permission to write about "the ordinary things of everyday life. John was the first to effectively use real events from his own life and turn them into song/stories with absolute connection and universal appeal."
"The last time I saw John live, he played for over two hours without a break," recalls Watroba. "The relationship between artist and audience was like a couple of old friends talking and laughing over a cup of coffee."
Last year, Prine celebrated the 30-year anniversary of his self-titled debut album - which is still arguably his greatest album in a long career of great albums. To help commemorate that anniversary, Prine's record company, Oh Boy, released its first DVD/video - "John Prine Live From Sessions at 54th" - a live show culled from the TV-concert series.
Prine has frequently joked about how much he hates to sit down and write, and that he'll do almost anything to avoid it. If the consistent excellence of his songs are any indication, perhaps that's just because his standards are higher than those of most writers.
Indeed, Prine has always possessed a talent for conveying volumes of emotional subtext with a deft, economical couplet. Sometimes, what he leaves out means more than what he leaves in.
Or as Prine once said: "I guess I see my job as being sort of like a hedge-trimmer. I figure I have to just keep trimming away and cut out what isn't supposed to be there."
Capacity crowd sings along with a froggy John Prine
By: MARK WEDEL
John Prine played to a loving State Theatre sold-out crowd Friday night.
His voice was a bit more froggy than it was when he sang here last. Maybe it had to do with the surgery and radiation treatments on this throat to fight a bout of cancer in 1997. No matter. If he could just croak some of the words and do pantomime for the rest, his fans would still love him.
Prine sang a range of songs that rested primarily on his past. After all, his last album, "Souvenirs" (Oh Boy, 2000), is just new recordings of his old songs.
But they were some great songs. His debut in 1971 caused people to call him the "new Dylan." That was a shame, since he was obviously the first and only Prine, going beyond Dylan's artiness by being as plain and honest as possible.
He's still just the ex-postman from Chicago, with the same attitude of surprise at finding himself at the microphone. But the croak from a worn-out throat at 55 lent weight to words that seemed to come from an elder when he wrote them in his 20s.
Some have just become heartbreaking. "Souvenirs," "Angel from Montgomery" and "Far from Me" have gained the certainty with the years that, yes, we'll all feel weariness and heartbreak sooner or later. "Sam Stone," probably the saddest Vietnam war vet song ever, got the crowd singing along like a choir, and earned Prine a standing ovation.
"There's a hole in daddy's arm where all the money goes/Jesus Christ died for nothin' I suppose," goes "Sam Stone." But, then again, sometimes "It's a half an inch of water and you think you're gonna drown," as Prine sings in "That's the Way That the World Goes 'Round." Prine, as usual, let us know that it isn't all that bad. One could say that he beat Dr. Phil to the punch with a number of no-nonsense -- and some nonsense -- advice songs, the most obvious being "Dear Abby," letting the troubled know that "you are what you are and you ain't what you ain't."
Bassist David Jacques and guitarist Jason Wilbur provided minimal backing most of the time. When they played out, songs like "Spanish Pipedream" and "Grandpa Was a Carpenter" got a retro-country feel -- they even rocked out country-style on an old Carter Family song. But Prine doesn't keep the fancy airs up for long. The two left Prine alone for much of the concert's midpoint, so it was just he and his guitar and some dry, bemused wisdom.
Greg Trooper, a singer-songwriter from New York City by way of Nashville, opened. His songs were sweet and unpretentious with some sly humor and creativity here and there, where Mohammed Ali teaches us the spirit of Christmas and Saturday nights are spent eating old peanut butter. He warmed up the crowd nicely, even getting them to sing along with his song "Real Like That."
We just go home from this concert. seems every concert of
John's I've seen, I always say, "This was the best concert yet". so without further
adieu, "This was the best concert yet"! I've seen John with only a bass player, a whole band, a guitar player and bass player,
I've seen John play with his wife, I've seen him with another whole band, I've
seen him by himself and tonight with another bass player and guitar player.
John sure knows how to assemble a gig. They were just awesome. John had that hollow guitar just-a-rockin'.
Can't remember the names, but I think John threw out a couple of new songs.
I've listened to everything John's done and I didn't recognize these two at all.
He didn't say the name of one and I can't remember the name of the other.
All I can say is they were pure classical Prine.
You can tell John's voice is suffering a little when he talks. and I know he had battle cancer.
Lung cancer. People don't survive lung cancer in the long run, so I was particularly in tune to taking it all in.
It's been awhile since John was in Kalamazoo and it may be a long, long while before he comes
back, and with this cancer, well...we're praying hard for John. (*editor's
note: John had a type of throat cancer, not lung cancer. He
received intense radiation treatments and has been cancer free for nearly
5 years now. His doctor's have given him yet another clean bill of health
at this writing.)
It was truly magical to watch John tonight. He gave to the crowd and fed off the crowd like no other time
I've seen him. Kalamazoo is very small and intimate and I know John likes to play there, so
I think he enjoyed himself very much.
When he took his last bow, it was deep and long. while bowing he brought his hands up and held his face a bit, then stood up and smiled a big smile and thanked the crowd profusely.
Go see him while you still can. he's truly one of God's gifts to us and we should be there for him at every concert.
We were filled up and sold out.
Thanks John. For once again, taking to the grueling road so we can enjoy your songs.
You know, he always made jokes about learning three chords and that's about all he's mastered. don't let him fool you. he's one of the best pickers around and he proved it again tonight.
GO SEE JOHN!
State Theatre to host folksy, profound Prine
By: MARK WEDEL
Maybe he knows the secret, maybe it's just what he does, but John Prine with his nasally voice and simple, folksy style can do a song that can floor listeners.
Prine, 55, who is coming to Kalamazoo's State Theatre on Friday for his fourth concert there, has been writing songs since he was a teen. After a trip to Germany in the care of the U.S. Army and while he was working as a mailman in Chicago, he took a chance at an open-mike night and sang his songs "Sam Stone," "Hello In There" and "Paradise." These and a few others became classics on his 1971 self-titled debut album.
Prine takes a characteristically modest, humorous and semi-mystical view of his talent.
"Writing is about a blank piece of paper and leaving out what's not supposed to be there," he's quoted as saying in the June 2000 Performing Songwriter magazine.
His latest CD, "Souvenirs" (on his own Oh Boy Records, 2000), is a rerecording of 15 of his early songs, including the title track, "Fish and Whistle," "Angel From Montgomery," "Donald and Lydia," "Grandpa was a Carpenter" and others.
In the CD notes, Prine writes of his songs, "They have been faithful companions throughout the years, never letting me down and constantly making me new friends, even when I was sleeping."
He redid the songs, mainly for European release, "as I have always wanted to be popular in Germany." But after he and others at Oh Boy Records listened to the result, they decided to release it in the United States, "as I would like to be popular there as well."
Most reviews of the CD make note that after "In Spite of Ourselves," a 1999 collection of duets of mostly covers, and his live 1997 "Live On Tour," now would be a good time for some new Prine.
But the songs have aged as well as their singer. The San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "The production is low-key, the singing heartfelt and the songs are some of the finest by any singer-songwriter in the whole darn idiom. ... Like all the best fiction, Prine's songs tell the truth in novel and illuminating ways."
The Austin American-Statesman wrote, "This reprised collection, with its mix of cutting commentary and upright compassion, makes it clear that Prine is the songwriting link between Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. He's the sly grin after the sneer and before the stiff upper lip."
New material might be slow in coming from Prine for a couple reasons. One, he hit a life snag when in 1997 he finally asked a doctor about a lump on his neck and found he had cancer. Surgery, six months of radiation and the cessation of a 30-year cigarette habit followed.
He told Yahoo's Launch (launch.yahoo.com) in 1999 that the end result wasn't bad. "My voice seemed to drop some. It's not as thin or something, a little broader and sounding a little more mature. It's a heck of a way to get maturity ... but things could be a lot worse."
Prine is also finding songwriting a slow process. Songs come to him as long as he's not forcing them out, he told Performing Songwriter.
"I've got no idea what it is I do," he said, laughing. "I don't know if I'm just being lazy or what. But if I say I'm going to write tomorrow morning, I can sit down and I can probably tell in the first 15 minutes if there's going to be anything, even before I write something down. I can tell by how hard I'm thinking about getting out of there.
"It's like prison to me, it really is. And it used to be my only getaway from the rest of the world -- to go in my room and write a song when I was a kid. And then it became my living."